Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Food

Eating in the Raw

We’re trying something new… new year, new habits, new ideas… it’s a good time for that kind of thing. I figure since the world is apparently ending in a little less than a year, it’s time to make some (good) things happen, right?

A few months ago, my Loverly Husband decided that he wanted to do this ‘forage’ style meal plan. It’s not a full-on ‘raw foods‘ or vegan/vegetarian thing, but similar – more low-key than that, really. It’s more about simplicity than it is about buying into the ‘lifestyle’ that is usually (albeit stereotypically) associated with such a diet. His idea includes no meal planning, just having fresh foods on-hand to consume quickly and as easily as possible whenever hunger strikes.

Now, if you know anything about me from reading here, I can imagine that one of the things that jumps out at you is my penchant for planning all things with zero moderation. My Loverly Husband, who has known me since Kindergarten, could not possibly have failed to notice this trait, and yet somehow thought that I would be just dandy with it. Not.

Well, that was a few months ago, and I have to admit that the idea has grown on me. We’ve always kept kid-friendly foods on hand and the boys have been fixing their own breakfast most of the time for years now. To carry this trend over into lunch and dinner isn’t that much of a stretch, practically speaking. Admittedly, this laissez-faire,  go-with-the-flow attitude might have something to do with my current/new-again-as-of-yesterday medication, which has blessedly made my previously over-stressed state a thing of that past, but whatever the reason, I really have gotten on-board with the whole idea.

I admit that the simplistic aspect appeals, but so does the idea that such a diet would lend aid towards health and weight-loss endeavors. As we launch into a new year, I once again have all these aspirations of weight loss and exercise; maybe putting a diet/lifestyle into place that supports those goals will create a whirlpool of success? In any case, I put on my Optimism Hat and tried to figure out how I can satisfy my own need to over-plan and still follow this simple idea.

Upon scavenging Pinterest for ideas, I discovered that there are literally hundreds of recipes out there for raw/vegan approximations of foods we normally eat (minus the meat and cooking, of course). Since we’re not going all out vegan, I think that small changes here and there with an eye towards that as a goal will be easier to accomplish and less traumatic, gastronomically speaking. Following a recipe does require some planning though, so I think it’s possible to satisfy my need to plan while still meeting the raw/vegetarian-ish goals.

And so it was that I decided that starting today, when I go grocery shopping this afternoon, it will be with the following goals in mind:

  • stay in the produce section as much as possible
  • plan on whatever actual cooking to be done is vegan-ish (with the exception of perpetual soup/bone broth which is going on to cook this afternoon)
  • to refrain from being tempted by processed foods and junk
  • keep the basket filled with only what can be consumed by the four of us in the course of a few days (this will be a challenge because I am used to planning and shopping for two weeks at a time)
I also found a few links that are for beginners to the raw foods lifestyle that I found to be helpful rather than ‘preachy’: Raw Food Diet for the Beginner and Starting A Raw Food Diet. I also found a fantastic blog called Smaller Sarah in which she shows her pantry and fridge before and after shots. I’m impressed and amazed at the neatness of the pantry and the lovely baskets full of yummy cold fresh foods. I want my fridge to look like that! I would take pictures of the befores now, but I am embarrassed to show you my fridge and after the holidays and a week’s vacation for my Loverly Husband, my pantry is in similar disrepair. But I may update this post with after pictures.

We start school again next week. Wish me luck!

Warmly,
~h

P.S. It occurs to me after looking over my list that it’s not terribly ‘vegan/vegetarian’. But considering that virtually every meal for the past.. all of eternity has revolved around whatever meat-main-course and my current shopping list contains ’2 whole chickens’ instead of 10-12 meats for four, I’m calling that progress.

P.P.S. And in case you were wondering, I am not one of those ‘save the animals’ PETA people. I fall more on the ‘meat is tasty murder’ side of the fence, supported by the presence of both canine teeth (for ripping, shredding) and molars (for grinding and mashing) in humans, which (to me) indicate that humans are omnivores and therefore are designed to consume flesh.


Pick-up Stix

Once upon a time, there was this awesome Blogging Goddess. She promptly updated her blog after every significant and/or picture-worthy event, and was especially diligent about writing and sharing holiday-related blog posts.

….. Aaaaaaaad *clearly*, we’re not talking about me, here. {wink} We now join our fair Minor Blogging Deity Slacker Blogger a week after Halloween to re-cap the newsworthy events of the past week.

Much as I wish I could say that there haven’t been any, there has, and as much as I wish I could say these events aren’t newsworthy, they are. But first, let me sprinkle some holiday cheer (umm…er… cobwebs?)

I may have mentioned before that I was raised in a religion that does not celebrate holidays. Being the somewhat gothy chick that I am, anything dark and mysterious and/or creepy and spooky has always attracted my interest, and Halloween in particular has always held intense fascination for me. Now that I’m all grown up with kids of my own, I’m able to indulge myself in all the fancy fun that is decorating, making creepy food and dressing up.

We had a small gathering of friends over last weekend to celebrate; grown-ups and kids. This was our first holiday party to host, so it was very exciting. We had a full house ( a mad house, I tell ya!) and everyone had a pretty good time, I think. The kids spent a great deal of time outside waiting for new guests to arrive so they could pop out and scare them, then playing chase and hide and seek in the dark. We kept the adults warm and conversation flowing with sangria and party games, with the occasional child running through the house (often yelling). We wrapped up the evening close to the witching hour with poker and Rock Band. Since we don’t often have many guests over at one time, this was a lot of fun!

Last year, my awesome peeps came over to my house and we crafted Halloween trees from branches, tall glass containers, rocks from the yard, scrapbook paper, Mod Podge and spray paint. They turned out really well, so I decided to keep mine for further holiday use. I kept up with it until Easter-ish of this year, then packed the tree away… it’s back out again (complete with the orange eggs from Easter, even) with spooky decorations. As of this moment, it’s still on the table (de-Halloween’d) and waiting for a new craft. I’m thinking fall leaves made out of coffee filters and watercolors and the ‘thankful’ leaves that we put on a paper tree last year…. stay tuned for pictures!

The kids’ little pumpkins are also still on the table – we’re considering making pies. I’ve never made pies from real pumpkins before, so this should be interesting!

A Pinterest find… Chocolate cupcakes with white icing and sugar glass with syrup blood… the pictures really don’t do them justice! We also attempted to carve faces in apples for shrunken heads to float in the bloody sangria (Apothic Red wine, cran-strawberry juice and sprite with berry jello ‘globs’ for blood clots. It was disgustawesome.), but only managed two, and they were… not so great. I plan to practice my apple-carving skillz in the coming year and try again next year.

Kids’ costumes: PeaGreen is the Green KNight from Castle Crashers (video game) and LBB is ‘a ghost named Scream’. He’s never seen the movies (that I know of) and it occurs to me that this is the third year in a row that he’s dressed as a serial killer. There was Jason, then Grim Reaper, and now Scream… we banned weapons for the future at Halloween this year, so hopefully next year he will plan his costume based on something other than the weapon said character carries.

And this is my costume… well, part of it. I saw this video by Klaire de Lys for ripped nails and thought they’d make excellent zombie or fresh-from-the-coffin-baby-vamp nails. Considering that I am a huge fan of Vampire and Z-pocalypse themed anything, I figured I should take notes. Notes turned into a trial run, and my trial run turned into fabu, which, doing the math, = pictures. So, yay! I only did one hand and posted the picture to Facebook to gauge effectiveness and am quite happy to report that this method of nail-crafting does, indeed, elicit the expected sympathetic and/or grossed out responses! I did both hands for Halloween (after all the food was prepared, naturally) and again – lots of positive feedback (which, in this case includes comments like, ‘sick’, ‘so real looking’, ‘gross’, ‘nasty’ and ‘that’s seriously making me ill’.) {does happy dance}

In other news, we’re a mere four weeks away from being DONE with our second year of homeschooling!

{fanfare}

You can expect a countdown from here on out, pretty much. While most people are finally settled into their year, ours is winding down. I am debating the wisdom of doing less academic related stuff and more crafting/holiday related stuff, but I think we can probably work both in. We’ll have off the last 3 weeks of December before we start the new year in January; I’ll be planning next year’s schedule in the near future as well.

We’re currently in the middle of Peter and the Starcatchers (with two more books in the series on the table waiting to be read) and about to start a Thanksgiving unit study and lapbook. I’m working without a printer at the moment (am considering inventing a printer that runs on blood; it would be cheaper than buying ink/toner), so I will be putting all of my craftiness into making a lapbook without a printer. We’re going to use collage and notebooking, so it will look quite different from our previous lapbook samples, but still fun, I hope. Combined with the Yule lapbook that we started on but never finished last year, that’s quite a bit of crafty stuff in and of itself.

So that’s pretty much it. I have more to say, but will post again tomorrow.

Warmly,

~h

*post title has absolutely nothing to do with the content of this post. It was just a word that sounded fun in my mouth and so now it’s the title of this post.


Enjoying the Autumn Weather

We had our first cool front come through last week – a much needed, much appreciated cool front. It’s been unbelievably hot this summer, and even though I say that every year, this summer really has set records. I’m not an outdoors-y type most of the time, but between the swarm of love-bugs that have finally left town (or died out – whatever) and the unrelenting heat, this first taste of cooler weather made me positively antsy to be outside.

We packed up the kids’ remaining school work one day last week and went out to one of our local state parks to enjoy the cooler weather. It was actually quite a bit cooler than we’d thought when we left the house; several times, I had the kids run around the pavilion we were sitting at to warm up. We did nearly get carried away by mosquitoes; normally those nasty little bloodsuckers fade away once the weather turns, but maybe the woods offered some shelter because even with the cooler air, they were out in droves. Yay for bug spray!

When we got home, in keeping with the autumn atmosphere, we made caramels. This is my new favorite thing ever: MICROWAVE caramels. Yes. Microwave. You just mix everything in a big Pyrex bowl and throw them in there, stir occasionally and in six minutes, you have  lovely and brown and bubbly and smooth and creamy caramel… and with a tiny sprinkling of flaked salt on top, they’re oh, so very tasty!

The recipe is from Food Network, but I found it on Pinterest.

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light Karo syrup
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  2. Cook 6 minutes, stirring every two minutes.
  3. Stir and pour into lightly greased dish.
  4. Let cool.
  5. Cut, wrap in wax paper & store in air tight container.

I didn’t have brown sugar, so I used a 1/2 cup of white sugar with a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses. I didn’t have Karo, so I used a 1/2 cup of white sugar with 2 teaspoons of water (stirred to dissolve the sugar). The caramels didn’t quite set up the way they should have, but they taste fantastic. One day, I’ll buy the other ingredients and make the actual recipe… maybe. My version is more like a thick caramel sauce and is amazing in coffee and over ice cream, in case you were wondering.

Hope you’re celebrating fall with hot cocoa every morning!

Warmly,

~h


Calling School on Account of Blahs

One of the many, many things that I love about homeschooling is the flexibility. We’ve reached the middle of the week and after a couple of days of ‘phoning it in’, I am calling school on account of blahs.

I am not ‘sick’, but I feel kinda… meh, and I know I am not giving them my best. It’s not that it’s been a ‘bad’ week; things have been fine. But the kids are just doing the work to get it done, rather than doing any real ‘learning’, so instead of continuing to push, I think it makes more sense to spend a couple of days getting over whatever this is we seem to have and begin again next week.

Intellectually, I know that breaks are beneficial. Not pushing when your heart’s not in it; actually stopping to re-group and rediscover your joy in homeschooling is necessary. It’s something that I’ve said and read over and over again, and yet still I occasionally find myself battling the ‘get it done’ mindset.

We’re not bound by anyone else’s rules or policies. We have no one but ourselves to report to or satisfy, and we’re not disrupting a carefully crafted time-table to put off today’s plan in favor of something that fits better. I purposefully designed our school schedule so that there would be enough school days built-in so that we could take breaks where needed. But still, there is the lingering feeling that ‘today is a school day’ and so we ‘must’ get XYZ finished. Silly, I know. Perhaps Mommy needs some de-schooling today. {wink}

In any case, it’s 9:45 and the kids are still in their rooms. They’re not asleep; I can hear them chattering and laughing. I am thinking brunch, chores and then grocery store for hot chocolate and coconut milk to make coconut whipped cream. Then, I think we might scour the KidCraft Pinterest board for something awesome to do this afternoon. Yeah. That’s a good plan.

Warmly,

~h


Swimming, Lacto-fermented Marmalade and a Nurse In at the Zoo

Happy Labor Day! Well… belated Labor Day, anyway. We spent the weekend chillaxin’ at home, mostly without kids and occasionally without power. We did have some much-needed rain though and a very much appreciated cool front come through, so even without power, I am not complaining much.

We did finally get our pool fixed, so half the weekend was spent enjoying the suddenly icy-cold water.

Tuesday is our homeschool group’s regularly scheduled field trip day. Each week, we get together fo an activity with the kids. This week, we hit the Houston Zoo. They have free admission on the first Tuesday of the month after 2PM, so we go out every few months. SFK (who promises me that she’s going to blog again one day…) and I usually ride out together (because car-pooling is both fun and eco-friendly) and since we were going to be in the Houston area anyway, we made plans with a friend of ours for lunch before our rendezvous at the zoo with the rest of our group.

This is our friend Nicole . She’s a doula, childbirth educator and massage therapist in the Houston area and SFK swears by her magic hands! If you’re pregnant or have pregnant friends in the Houston area, definitely give her a call. Her website is EarthBirthMom and her blog is here. She was making lacto-fermented goodness, marmalade and hummus in this case with plans to make lemonade and ginger carrots in the near future.

Lacto-fermentation happens when the starches and sugars in vegetables and fruit convert to lactic acid by a friendly lactic-acid producing bacteria. This produces not only a tangy, delicious product, but it also preserves it. There are tons of health benefits from eating fermented foods as well. The book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon says,

“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”

I haven’t tried fermenting foods yet, but it’s definitely on my radar of soon-to-be-realized projects!

We hit the zoo after lunch. Last time we were here, it was super crowded. Now that school’s back in session, it was really nice – lots of room, even in the more crowded areas of the park. PeaGreen hung out with me most of the day while LBB took off with SFK and her girls. He’s gotten camera-shy all of the sudden, so I didn’t get many snapshots of him – and none that were clear.

The zoo really turned into a group affair. Our local breastfeeding coalition caught wind of a recent breastfeeding related story in the news. After contacting the zoo, the BBC arranged a ‘thank you nurse in‘ to show their support for the way that the zoo’s management handled the situation and present them with a breastfeeding friendly certificate. Their photographer was supposed to snap a few shots of the group, but was uncomfortable photographing nursing mothers, so I snagged a shot and some of the other supporters did as well.

We had 11 moms with babes-in-arms, plus 4 more moms with kids there to support them. We also ran into another homeschooling group that we do stuff with later in the afternoon. It was a really good day at the zoo!

The Museum of Natural Science also has free admission to the main gallery on Tuesdays after 2PM and normally we try to go over there as well, but this time we had such an awesome day at the zoo that we stayed later than usual. We didn’t get a group shot, but we had such a good time that I think it’ll be a strong memory.

How’d you spend your Labor Day this year?

Warmly,
~h


Proof that Children DO eat Bugs

 

Fried crickets and meal worms. Who said Summer Reading Club was boring?

Warmly,

~h


Rabbit, Rabbit – Happy Chinese New Year!

Our homeschool group got together today for a Chinese New Year party and parade. The first day of Chinese New Year was actually last week on the 3rd, but it is celebrated for 15 days and so lasts through the 17th. We’d planned on a parade last week for our regularly scheduled park day, but the weather was being nasty so we rescheduled and combined our parade with our co-op class. We took the kids on a costumed walk through the neighborhood and got quite a few interesting looks from passers-by. I often wonder what people must be thinking when we take our kids out in a group, especially when they’re doing something ‘odd’. They had fun though, so who cares what other people think, right?

Holidays are always interesting for me; over the last couple of weeks, I’ve learned as much about CNY as the kids have. I grew up in a faith that didn’t celebrate holidays, so the whole business is a lot of fun for me. I always have to go read up on the ‘how-to’ for holidays. I did find a good ‘about CNY’ page at Kiddy House:

FIRST DAY OF CHINESE NEW YEAR

  • All debts have to be repaid by this time. There should also be no lending on this day as it is believed that it will put you in debt for the whole year.
  • Foul language or curse words and words that are supposed to be unlucky or sound unlucky should not be uttered.
  • Children also get away with their misbehaviour on this day. Parents do not want to upset their children or make them cry as crying on New Year’s Day is considered unlucky.
  • It is advisable to start the day off by consuming a bowl of sweet dessert called “tong sui” (sugary drink) in Cantonese. It symbolises starting the year off sweet and pleasant.
  • The children will greet their parents and adults : Gong Hei Fatt Choy (in Cantonese)Gong Xi Fa Cai (in Mandarin)Keong Hee Huat Chai (in Hokkien) The meaning of “Gong Xi” is congratulations while “Fa Cai” means be rich or prosperous. All the above have the same meaning. They only sound different.
  • New clothes and shoes are a must for Chinese New Year.
  • The younger generation will go visit their elder relatives and friends too. Married couples, will have to give a red packet called “Hong Pow” containing money inside to those who are not married and also to their parents.
  • The hosts will serve their guests all kinds of cookies and the Mandarin Orange. The Mandarin Orange is a symbol of prosperity.

We didn’t do much of this, but seeing what people do and why is always neat. It’s all in good fun around our house, but I find it fascinating that for some families this is serious business, especially in a historical context. The tradition of firecrackers for CNY celebrations comes from the Legend of Nian, and the Dragon Dance also has a long and complicated history. It’s been interesting to read about and see the ways that history and legend affect local customs, how they change over time and how they’re interpreted today.

When I was looking up CNY activities, I found a bunch of ideas and since we still have time left for the official celebration, we’ll probably still do a lapbook on China at some point this coming week. Here are some of the links that I’ll pull from to make our lapbook:

We learned that gifts of money are also traditional on CNY, presented in a red envelope. Activity Village has a template for red envelopes, or you can find a template with history and additional customs at Feng Shui Web. We substituted well wishes for the coming year and made one for all the kids that were at co-op today. Our hostess made a ribbon with feet and a tail to go on the kids’ masks to clip their red envelopes to; we hung them over the boys’ desks in the school room this evening.

When we were planning our parade, the moms in our group discussed going all-out and collaborating on a big dragon, but that was clearly way more work than we were looking for. Based on previous experience, what would happen is that the moms would end up doing all the work and the kids would trash it within the first 5 minutes of having ‘fun’ with it. Still, the idea of having our own giant dragon costume is intriguing. I’d planned on making smaller papier-mache/egg carton dragon puppets, but we didn’t get to that, either. We still might make one (or two), and if you’re feeling super crafty, here are some of the links I found; the egg carton dragon and ThatArtistWoman’s Dragon Puppet.

I also found a picture of kids with streamers on their arms and a dragon mask, and that’s what we actually ended up doing today for the parade. We printed out these masks, then colored them with markers and pasted them on colored paper for added strength, then cut and put ties on them. That worked out very well; the kids looked great with their streamers flying behind them as they paraded!

A few weeks ago, I found an offer for free Chinese New Year materials from Panda Express (I think it’s over now, but you can still see most of the material here) and ordered a kit for our group. One of the nifty things about being in a homeschool group is that in some settings, our group functions as a school so we can get materials that we might not have access to as an individual homeschooling family even though in Texas, each homeschool is considered a private school. The kit had a video that had some bite-sized info-bytes about Chinese culture and some of the history and customs associated with CNY, and as you might expect, a big ole advertisement for Panda Express. However, considering that the materials kit was free and they sent coupons for free kids meals as lai see, I guess I can live with that. The narrator did talk about traditional foods and their meanings and there was an activity guide, so the kids (well, the girls) got to make couple of little craft projects. They made paper lanterns (these are pretty, too) and the boys and I made party poppers as favors to hand out.

I found a link for felt fortune cookies, which would be cute for a kids’ kitchen. I also found a recipe for them as well, but I can’t honestly say that I’m interested in making them. Cooking is so not my forte, but maybe one day we’ll get around to attempting them. We did have a lovely Chinese-themed potluck lunch buffet, and a fabulous yin-yang cake made with tinted black chocolate frosting and marshmallows. The kids all thought that the cake was awesome. If you’ve never made Chinese food at home, give it a try. Even without traditional cookware, it’s easy and so very tasty! Then, you can make dessert… good fortune cupcakesmandarin orange muffins (which might also be good for breakfast).

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of the Rabbit is supposed to be peaceful and quiet following the Year of the Tiger, so with that in mind, may your year be restful and unhurried, with good taste and refinement shining on all your endeavors!

Warmly,

~h


Lunch = Art = Lunch

I am just in love with these creative little lunches in boxes. If you haven’t heard of them before, they’re called Bento lunches and they’re just so pretty and creative and fun. I’ve wanted to make some for a while now, so of course, when we’re an hour late for our lunch/afternoon science themed homeschool play-date, I decided that was the perfectly opportune moment to throw them together instead of a more traditional (and speedy) packed lunch.

For a spur-of-the-moment decision and a first try, I am more than pleased with how they turned out. While I am not so ambitious as to attempt a rainbow box just yet, working with what we had on-hand was pretty easy. I didn’t have a theme in mind; I just started packing and realized that I could make it perty…so I did.

I put lettuce in the bottom (triple blend; enough for a small salad) and then put sliced peaches in one end of the box. These boxes are the snap-top non-leak kind and they came from Dollar Tree. I have yet to have one leak on me, so I think the $1 boxes are a great buy but you can totally go more expensive with the box option if you like. I wrapped a part-skim mozzarella cheese stick with sliced ham and cut it into 6 rolls, then used baby carrots to keep things separate. I put salad dressing and croutons in another container and then ruined the healthier slant I had in mind with a delicious chocolate Swiss Cake Roll.

Here’s the result:

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch so I can experiment a little more. I have to say that this was a pretty good way to get more food into my kids as they both ate nearly everything in their boxes. Both of the boys are pretty good eaters anyway; aside from a few texture issues with LBB, they’ve always liked fruits and raw veggies. We have more trouble with getting them to actually sit down and eat rather than just snack. Maybe the presentation helped – we’ll see if that holds true long term.

I do have to say that seeing everything laid out together makes it harder to choose chips over celery. Another cool thing about Bentos is that if you’re following a traditional layout/content, you’re pretty close to ‘normal’ on serving size and nutritional content. One half would be rice or a carbohydrate, one quarter would be your main dish (meat?) and the remaining quarter would be fruit/veg. Our family generall eats meals on salad/child sized plates and we usually plate meals with half fruit/veg and the quarters to be carbs and protein; I envision our future boxes following a similar spread.

We have a ton of sandwich cutters (the de-crusters that also half a sandwich all in one step) and more than a couple of cookie-cutters that make wonderful shaped sandwiches. It will be fun to let the boys loose and see what kinds of creations they can come up with. I found Lunch in a Box, Bento Lunch (with a blog ring), and flickr’s Bento Boxes photo group to be great places to get ideas for contents and arrangement. If you’re into the decorative boxes, check out Toxel’s Amazing Bento Food Art Creations, LuckySundae’s Bento art flicker photostream, and Anna The Red’s amazing site (check out her Raving Rabbids rice roll – incredibly edible!).

We did manage to get school work done this morning even though we had a field trip planned (gold star for Mom). We finished up our Ancient Egyptian Architecture lapbook and are working on Lesson 3 in Latin. We’re finally getting into vocabulary that the boys can use (practically, not just to show off, which they’re totally not above doing). When Loverly Husband is found napping on the couch, they’re quite proud to whisper to each other about it in Latin. When I say ‘finally’ I should clarify. We usually spend a week or so on each lesson, and then go over it again in review (flashcards) to make sure they have it before we move on. We’ve been doing the Cambridge lessons for several weeks now, and our pace is about one lesson per week – give or take a couple of days.

Getting done with lessons put us late on leaving the house, so it’s a good thing we had a weather-induced change of plans. Today’s field trip was supposed to be to the Houston Health Museum, but with another cold front hitting today and temps slated to fall back into the 30′s by 2PM, we opted out of a long drive and went to SFK’s house for fun with faux-polymers. That sounds a lot more academic than saying that we made play dough, doesn’t it? We tried four different variations of this recipe, and ultimately decided that omitting the salt made the dough with the best ‘feeling’.

It would have been even more academic had we actually discussed with the kids what that ‘polymer’ means, but it’s been a couple of weeks since they’ve been together and so were much more interested in the socialization aspect of today’s festivities. We’ve been cooped up inside for a week now thanks to the weather, with only each other for company – a far cry from our normal social scene domination, so SFK and I let the education slide in favor of socializing with their buds. It’s all about balance, you know {wink}.

Warmly,

~h


Back to the Daily Grind

I am happy to report that we survived Snowpocalypse 2011 completely intact. I know some of you were worried about us (at least I hope that some of you were). With extreme temperatures reaching into the 20′s, a couple of icicles and a hint of a suggestion of snow for about five whole minutes, it was touch and go for about 2 days, but now, as temps climb back up into the 60′s we’re pretty much back to normal this week… so far.

 

We don’t have central heating (we’re in Texas… it just doesn’t get that cold here) and with little insulation in our school room, which is where my main computer is, blogging takes an extreme backseat. We spent most of last week chillaxin’ in the nice warn gas-heater-heated living room with hot cocoa and movies. We managed to watch all of NatGeo’s ‘Walking with Monsters‘ and ‘Walking with Prehistoric Beasts‘ and a couple of the documentaries – one was an IMAX film on Beavers (Netflix.com) and how they change the landscape of an area permanently with their dams. It was pretty nifty.

We also spent quite a bit of time baking last week. We made chocolate chip cookies that were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and Smitten Kitchen’s homemade pop tarts with plum preserves that my granny made last year. They first batch was oh-so-tasty… the second batch, I forgot about and left in the oven slightly too long – so lesson learned – watch the clock when you’re backing pastries! They were really very good though – much better than store-bought pop tarts, and not terribly hard to make either. The boys thought it was fun putting them together.

This week, we’re exploring more of Ancient Egypt with a lapbook from Handle on the Arts, Ancient Egyptian Architecture. It’s a free download and seems to be very well-put together, as well as adaptable to whatever you’re learning about. We’re reading Story of the World, which doesn’t spend much time on Ancient Egypt, so we’re supplementing quite a bit.

We’re also looking forward to a visit to the Houston Health Museum – this will be our first visit, so I’m sure we’ll have pictures to share later this week. Hope all of you are staying toasty warm!
Warmly,

~h


Lapbooks and Other Updates

It’s been a long weekend, I tell ya. I cannot believe that we’re already in the third week of January. Where does the time go? We’ve been home quite a bit lately since it’s so blasted cold outside (the pic is from Park Day last week with our homeschool group. We were FREEZING and ended up at my house instead) and hitting the books hard. We’re averaging a little more than 5 hours per day, which is a LOT of school time for us. We’ll slack off when spring and summer hits, so I think it’ll even out as we hit better weather. We’ve started our history timeline (a scroll version) and have gotten a lot of use from our History Passports – the kids think that is so much fun!

We’ve made several lapbooks over the past couple of months that (shame on me) I’ve been neglectful about adding to our lapbooks list. In a burst of productivity today, I’ve updated my Lapbooks Page and added several of our newer books to the list, including our Martin Luther King, Jr. Lapbook that we did in coordination with today’s holiday.

Most of the newer additions are mini-lapbooks (meaning only one file folder), and after making them I have to say that I am starting to think that less may be more. Some of our books are multi-flap monstrosities that require an instruction manual to get folded back into submission. Not that I don’t love the big, involved ones, but these mini ones are small and clean and easy to get in and out of. They’re ‘faster’ to go though, and I think that appeals to my bouncy boys. I also like that the boys have been able to do more of the smaller books themselves. I admit it; I’m a cut-and-paste junkie, so usually I assemble and the boys add info to the mini-books, then we paste it all together. But they actually made the 10 Things ones on their own and they both turned out really well.

Some of our newer additions are:

I posted a bit about our holiday lessons for MLK Jr. Day on the lapbook page, so go check that out if you have a minute.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been quite busy – I mentioned it before, but a woman in our playgroup thought her kids had chicken pox so I brought the boys over for exposure. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have jumped the gun. I was so excited to have a case of CP locally that I didn’t stop to ask many questions. I’ve been irritated with myself for not confirming that her kids did indeed have chicken pox. Another playgroup mom who also exposed her kids took them in to see their pedi and they were diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease. Whether or not the first mom’s kids had it or not is unclear since she didn’t request blood work for an accurate diagnosis and confirmation. Had it been me offering up a disease for exposure, I’d have made darn sure that was for sure what it was before advertising it, but that’s just me. I think it’s also possible that the first mom’s doctor mentioned CP in a list of other things, or that she misunderstood, or that the doctor was just guessing (which would prompt me to find another doc as mis-diagnosis could lead to problems down the line) … in any case, the fault lies squarely with yours truly for not asking more questions. Hindsight is 20/20, and as much as I’d prefer my kids actually have chicken pox, next time, I’ll do more detective work before exposing my bratty kids to someone else’s germy ones. My kids haven’t been sick though, with either HFM symptoms (which would have surfaced at 3ish days post exposure and usually only is symptomatic in younger kids – mine are too old to get it, I think) or CP (which would be about now).

We had a bit of a shock this weekend; my Loverly Husband’s father passed away in his sleep sometime Friday night. He was an alcoholic, and has been off-and-on ill with complications resulting from alcoholism for the past 5 or so years, so it wasn’t a surprise, exactly, but he’d been doing better over the past few months and his death was sudden and unexpected. He and I had our differences, and I have a lot of anger towards him regarding his actions and words over the past few years, but I also recognize that he was sick and broken. I’m incredibly sad for my husband and his family that my father-in-law’s death has so many mixed emotions. I can say one thing, as much as we were at odds, he did love my kids and never treated them badly. He gets a gold star for that. Seeing my husband grieve makes me glad that our kids have each other. He’s an only child and I can’t imagine how that must feel – to lose your parent and not have anyone ‘else’.

In other news, circumcision has been a buzz word in my social circle lately. One of our playgroup moms started an ‘intactivist’ group for locals to discuss genital integrity, but so far it’s more of a choir group – all the moms are already educated on the issue and in agreement that it’s a bad thing worth fighting to abolish. That has its own joys, but I really would love to have a local place to send moms for information on the topic.

It’s always interesting to me to be on this side of the ‘mothering crusades’. I did my time as a staunch lactivist (Militant Breastfeeding Cult – huzzah!) and baby-wearing, co-sleeping, non-vaxer, and I stand by those decisions. They were best for our family and I think that they are the best approach to child-rearing, period. To this day, I haven’t seen any credible research that makes me think that those practices are anything but optimal for child-development. That’s not to say that everyone can do them, or that I am tooting my own horn in saying that I did – more that we all do the best we can with the information we have at the time. Now that my kids are older, I have other issues that I soapbox about – no less passionately – but it’s somewhat odd to me to see people stressing out over things that I am totally comfortable with now.

Back to the circ thing – my boys are both circumcised. It’s a decision that I didn’t know to question when LBB was born, and I really had only just started looking into it when PeaGreen was born. Knowing even half of what I know now, there’s no way I’d make that mistake again. As a mom, it sucks to be wrong. It makes me physically ill to dwell on the thought that I made a decision that has been harmful to my child. But that doesn’t mean that I get to bury my head in the sand and pretend that the decision is right because it’s the one I made. My job as a mother is to do the best I can do for my kids, even if it means admitting that something I did that I thought was good was, in fact, bad. I have seen several moms lately say that they’d make a different decision if they had it to do over again, and I think that hearing a mom say, ‘Yes, I did that and I wish I hadn’t. Here’s the information that helped me change my thinking.’ without being negative or judgmental is SUCH a powerful thing. It goes back to ‘sharing information’ rather than ‘giving advice’. No one wants advice, because advice implies that what you’re doing is wrong. But sharing information… sharing information is vital to supporting mothers, and I think I’ll always want to be part of that community no matter how old my kids get.

Leaving you with this quote from Dr. King:

‎”In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

Now I am off to put homemade yogurt on to set, and get ready for tomorrow’s field trip to the Forbidden Gardens. Wishing you a peaceful evening and a lovely night’s sleep,

Warmly,

~h


Winter Crafting at THE Academy

With cooler weather comes all kind of indoor crafting inspiration, it seems. Several blogs are featuring ‘show and tell’ of the various crafts that they’re working on, so I thought I’d join in with an update on what we’ve been working on around here. It helps, I think, to get into the spirit of things.

H’s Drums

I really wanted a drum, but I’m cheap so buying one (especially as a beginner) is not on my menu. I’d like to have one for a while and play with it a bit before investing in a ‘real’ one, so I started looking up ways to make one. I found this website, which talks about making them from concrete forms. Then I found these videos, which go into detail about how to make them. And so I did…

I couldn’t find packcloth, so I was going to use deer hide, but no one shot anything on opening day of deer season, so I used oiled canvas. I used an 8″ form because I wanted it to sit comfortably between my knees if I was sitting in a chair. I also made 2 smaller ones (for the kids… kinda) that are easier to use if you’re on the ground. Now that they’re made,I actually like the smaller height drums, and I think I’d go with a 10″ or 12″ tube instead of the small one for an adult. The 8″ ones are great for the kids. Good thing this is a cheap craft! The tube was $8, the hoops were $1, the Gorilla glue was $6 and the fabric was $6 (but I’ll get multiple uses from the glue and fabric). So each drum was about $7.

The oiled canvas has a deeper sound than the material in the videos, which I happen to like. I tacked the fabric with staples, then covered the staples with electrical tape to hide them. I left the staples sticking out so that if I need to remove them, I can easily pull them out with pliers. I still need to paint them (or cover the bodies) and cut out the feet so the sounds can get out, but here’s a glimpse of what they look like. I’m a fan of the hounds-tooth head. Tres chic!

PeaGreen’s Shield

I must say, an old aluminum trashcan lid makes an excellent shield for a kid. PeaGreen has often brought home loot that other people have tossed out. Every time he goes for a bike ride, he brings back some treasure that will go into his ‘building pile’ in the backyard. He’s a pretty creative kiddo, and the shield is only a small example of that imagination and ingenuity. We’re getting him Crazy Forts to encourage this interest in construction. Here’s our ‘how-to”:

  1. clean up and spray paint the ‘inside’ of the lid with silver spray paint.
  2. We used this shield pattern (it’s a Hylian shield, from Legend of Zelda) as the main decoration. Since his shield is round and the Hylian one is not, we’ll shade the areas that were outside of the pattern and embellished a bit.
  3. I sealed it with an acrylic sealant, but I think waterproof ModPodge would work too, and might give some added texture. The ‘beat up-ness’ of this shield lends authenticity, I was told.

Now we need a helmet.

Birthday Fun and Gingerbread Men

LittleBoyBlue’s birthday was this past Friday, so we joined some friends at Adventure Kingdom – a medieval themed mini-golf establishment, for cake, golf and bumper cars. Contrary to what this picture might suggest, they had a blast. I’m always amazed at how little minds work. He got it into his head at one point that all of his friends only came to do the fun stuff, not to be with him. After some reassurance that this is not so, he was fine, but I wonder where he got that idea from.

I’ve never made gingerbread cookies before, so we decided to make some yesterday. We found a recipe that promised tasty and not too firm goodies and went to town. They rolled nicely between freezer and parchment paper, and cut beautifully once I got the hang of rolling dough. Then we iced them with a lovely royal icing (made with lime juice instead of vanilla; I think next time I make it, I’ll add another egg white or maybe some cream of tartar to make it a tiny bit more firm, but overall it was great). I let the kids use a new marinating syringe (sans needle) to pipe the icing – worked great! We still have 2 packs of dough left to make, so this will be an on-going craft, I’m sure.

On the menu for the next few days is candy-making and more baking and sewing; I found a craft blog with mittens made from old sweaters that I might like to try. The ‘dragon mittens’ are super cute and I can think of a few kids who might need a pair. I have some fleece blankets and outgrown sweaters that might be great for this.

What’s on your craft table?

Warmly,

~h


100 Days of Homeschool Party

A couple of weeks ago, my good friend SFK sent me a Facebook message with the recipe for these super-vivid cupcakes with a single note, ‘Your house or mine?” (which illustrates perfectly why she holds a place in my heart… it’s not every mom who would willingly let not one but FOUR children spread super-bright food dye all over her kitchen counters).

A couple of days after that, I made mention to someone about celebrating 100 days of homeschool, not realizing that our own 100 days was fast approaching. Thus was the foundation for our 100 Days of Homeschool Party laid.

I went online and searched for activities and lesson plans and found a ton of stuff that was geared toward the classroom, which can usually be adapted for homeschooling use, but nothing that was actually directed towards homeschoolers. I posted last week with some preliminary plans; suffice it to say, I may have been over-reaching. The party supply store ended up seeming like a really long 5 minute drive and the thought of my poor fingers and lungs having to blow and tie 100 balloons was just too much, so we omitted that entire part of the plan.

The boys and I did start off the day with pancakes – only 10 of them, which is a multiple of 100, so that worked out. After breakfast, we did the quick tear through the house to tidy up that every mom on the planet does when she’s expecting company; though I have to say that I am extremely fortunate that my small group of friends truly do come to see me and not my house. That makes the tidy-up a quick bleach of the toilet and making sure there’s not actual heaps of dirt in the corners… and that’s about it.

Homeschooling pros SFK with girls LittleMiss and Tav, and introducing {fanfare} PB&JMom, with her kiddos (8DS PuddleJumper,11DD BellaBailar, 6DS AngelBoy & 3DD JellyBean – see: P, B And J Mom… clever, yes?) all came to celebrate with us. After a hot dog lunch, we mixed up 3 colors of Jello and lined the bottom of a dish with strawberries (for a coral reef – sorta) and orange Jello, then topped it with 100 Swedish fish and blue Jello (Tav comes in and asked if I knew why they called them ‘Swedish Fish’. I said no and was ever-so-adorbaly informed that it’s because they’re ‘sweet-ish’ and they’re shaped like fish’ – see? Swedish Fish!). We had the girls count out the fish, then let the boys double-check, then the girls double-checked them and so forth and so on until a consensus was reached that this was, indeed, 100 Swedish Fish.

The Jello looked pretty in the bowl… not so much scooped out on the plate:

The complaint was that the fish (which are supposed to be gooey and soft) got too hard in the cold refrigerator, plus they got all slimy. The Jello part was good, according to the kids. Our bowl was getting full, so we didn’t get to add the red Jello. If we do this again, we’ll use a taller container and start earlier in the day so the fish can be suspended in layers.

After jello, we brought the kids in to make the cupcakes.

While the cupcakes were baking, the girls did some flower-arranging (they made lovely bouquets for all the moms) and the boys played Wii. It was actually surprisingly quiet for a little while. Of course, that didn’t last long, so PB&JMom grabbed the lot of them and played a game.

Finally the cupcakes were done and decorating ensued:

Then it was out to the pool:

Since my children were asleep by 10PM (a rarity…) I know they were completely worn out, which usually happens after they’ve had a fun-filled busy day. I hope that our friends had as much fun as we did!

Warmly,

~h


Time Out for Mom

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face since beginning to homeschool my two boys is finding time to myself. When you have children in school, there’s a reasonable expectation of time alone, but when you’re homeschooling that’s a luxury that is rarely seen.

When my boys were little, my sister and another friend of ours with 2 littles of similar ages ran a babysitting co-op between the three of us. One day every three weeks, I’d have my two boys, her two kids and my niece from 10AM-2PM. The other 2 weeks, I’d drop my two off at one of their houses and would have four glorious hours to run errands or just enjoy the silence. PeaGreen was the youngest kiddo, and he was 18 months old when we started this, and we did it for about a year. It was really nice! I’ve been contemplating the value in trading off kid-care with another homeschooling family once the public school year starts and we’re back on a more structured schedule, but I don’t know if I want to commit to that again.

Awww – look how cute Fred and the boys were!!

One of the things that I enjoy about homeschooling is the consistency so it’s kinda silly to complain about it. But at the same time, even the most dedicated mom needs a break now and then. We’re fortunate in that when I need to do something without the kids, they can go to my dad’s for a bit. He’s home most of the time, and they love going over there, so it’s a win-win situation.

My most recent mama-time has been coming in the form of writer’s group events. I’ve been toying with the fantasy of being a writer since I was 16 or so, when I hacked out my first idea for a novel. It was an epic historical romance. Is that even a real genre? I was enamored with Margaret Mitchell and the way Gone With the Wind followed Scarlett for so many years. My heroine, Bridgette (a lingering fascination with the Chippettes, I think), was British and similar to the incomparable Miss O’Hara in some ways. My heroes were dashing (nothing like the annoying and effeminate Ashley) but properly English (so not so roguish as Rhett) and dignified. It’s funny to me to read back over the story lines and read the girlish dialogue and overly romanticized interactions. The story has a good backbone though and one day I would like to see it in print.

That’s just one of many outlines that I have written. I’m good at writing scenes; it’s the ‘what comes between’ that caries the story along that I need help with. I’m hoping that these writing groups will help guide me in the right direction and offer some encouragement along the way. I’m planning on joining the local writer’s guild, and the one in Lake Charles, which isn’t too far from here. I’m also looking forward to their conference in November. It feels good to be pursuing something that I love that I let fall to the wayside for a while. That happens a lot when you’re a mom, I think.

To be fair, weekends are frequently a source of time alone for me. My loverly husband usually take the boys to see his grandmother either Saturday or Sunday for a bit. Then they’ll hit the game store or something before coming home. This give the boys some time with ‘just dad’, and me some time to watch a movie or something without interruption from my wonderful little darlings. I’m lucky to have a husband who understands my need for time alone and lets me have it without complaint or criticism, especially when our house is messy like it is right now.

… speaking of which, I probably should go clean the kitchen or something. I’m putting up figs tonight (which taste nothing at all like fig newtons) and need to go stir them. Ya’ll have a good evening!

Warmly,

~h


Magical Monday

Monday is generally not my favorite day of the week, but as Mondays go, this one started out much better than anticipated. We got up pretty early – our plans would keep us out for most of the morning, so I wanted some time to check my email and stuff before we left. Okay, I confess, the real reason was because I created a Facebook page for my blog since all the cool kids were doing it for theirs (and if you haven’t yet, you should totally “like” it and subscribe to my blog – go ahead! There’s a box in the sidebar!!) and wanted to see who my ‘real’ friends are… {shame} yes, my vanity knows no bounds. {/shame}

Moving on…

The McFaddin Ward House is a former private residence turned museum that has really impressed me with their offerings of kid-friendly activity this summer. I don’t know if I just never saw any of their summer programs or if the inclusion of kids in the activity lineup is something new – whatever the case, they’ve had some really interesting and educational offerings that we have taken full advantage of in the past few weeks. There are still several things happening this Summer and Fall that we’re going to do, including a day-camp for kids 8-12 that explores life in the 1940′s. If you’re local to Southeast Texas, I’d recommend bookmarking their site and checking back in the Spring to see what they have planned for next Summer. I heard something about the theme being ‘behind the curtain’, dealing with seeing how the servants contributed to the household and featuring Mary Poppins… definitely something fun to plan on.

This week’s feature was a screening of Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks. We’ve been reading the books by Mary Norton with the intention of finishing them before the movie, but time got away from us so our discussion on the differences between the original story and the adaptation will have to wait. I’d never been to the Visitor’s Center – in fact, had never realized that the McFaddin-Ward Complex was so big. Spanning 2 full city blocks, with at least 5 buildings, it’s quite a large estate for being in the middle of downtown. It took us a couple of tries to get to the right spot, but when we got there we were greeted warmly and ushered right into the screening room. We were a wee bit late, so the movie was already started by the time we got there. The kids settled in and I went to sign in; when I did, one of the ladies said that I could pick the kids up at 12:15…

I have a mini-rant here. I don’t see the value in drop-offs that are only an hour or two. Maybe I’m crazy, but the point of summer ‘stuff to do’ from my perspective is so that we can do them together. It bugs me that moms with little kids – oh, they weren’t babies or anything; probably around the same ages as my kids – but it bothers me that the mom can’t even take a couple of hours out of her busy schedule to stay and watch a movie with them. Not only that, but who leaves their kids with strangers?? Not that the ladies that work and volunteer with MFW are suspect or anything, but your kids don’t know them, and they don’t really know your kids. It’s such a common practice here. Almost everything is a ‘drop off’ event. I don’t usually leave my kids and am always either the only parent, or one of a couple… it’s quite odd to me. Whatever. As my mom says, “You screw your kids up your way, and I’ll screw my kids up my way.”

In any case, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, and I’d forgotten how many educational discussion opportunities are brought up in such a relatively short time span.

The kids even got to be in the “Seen” section of a local paper:


“Bedknobs and Broomsticks” at the McFaddin-Ward House Visitor Center

The children in the film were evacuated from London during the Blitz bombings during World War II. As a homeschooling parent, if you can’t find at least 3 points of discussion in that sentence, then shame on you! We talked about children being orphaned, foster families and adoption (social studies), WWII & The Blitz (history) and where London and England are (geography).

It rained again today, ruining our plans to hit the post office to send out our next Postcrossing cards, so we came back home with the intent of furthering the English flair our day had taken on (after all, Professor Brown does talk about doing things ‘with flair’ in the film) with a lunch of Bangers and Mash, Texas style. We had sliced jalapeño sausage links and loaded mashed potatoes with apples and oranges. We’re Southern, and it’s deep into Summertime here, so we replaced hot tea with sweet tea over ice, naturally.

We also had to read about why plain old sausages are called ‘bangers’…apparently, the sausages made during WWII rationing had a tendency to explode when cooked on high heat, hence ‘bangers’. ‘Mash’ was easy – they’re mashed potatoes.

After lunch, we threw in a couple of quick science experiments – ‘acid egg bath’ and ‘sparkling star dip’ from Super Science Concoctions. I know I said it before, but seriously – if you’re homeschooling, this is a ‘must have’ book! The acid egg bath is basically a hard-boiled egg in vinegar for a few hours. Fred read the directions while I washed dishes and though she swears that she did say “hard-boiled egg’, I don’t remember hearing that part – so the kids will have a different result than the one explained in the book. We’ve been working under the assertion that ‘In Science, there are no experiments that are done “wrong”. If the experiment yields data, then it was a success.”  Tomorrow, before we leave, we’ll put a hard-boiled egg in vinegar to process and compare the two when we get home.

The star dip solution is just Borax dissolved into boiling water until the water is super-saturated, then you suspend a pipe cleaner shape in a jar filled with the solution. As it cools, the Borax will crystallize on the pipe cleaners. I’m excited about seeing the results of this one in the morning!

It’s really rewarding that as we’ve checked the progress of these experiments this afternoon and evening, the kids have all asked intelligent questions and made good observations. I know that it probably has nothing to do with ‘me’, per se, but having them really be mentally present as we’re doing things like makes me feel like we’re doing something ‘right’. That’s a huge boost to my confidence that, “I can do this. I AM doing this!”

After our mad scientist phase wore off, we got to play White Knight to my friend SFK’s Damsel in Distress. She found an awesome slate chalkboard that someone was getting rid of and sent out a distress call for assistance wrestling the great behemoth into the back of her truck. The size of this monstrosity was evidently misrepresented. However much of a pain it was for two delicate flowers such as we to move, it’s a total homeschooling score and if I wasn’t sporting lovely slate chalk boards of my own, I would have been completely jealous (though hers is a lovely gray that I like better than the tan/brown color of my own…).

Since we were out and about again, we did end up hitting the post office after all and got cards off to Pittsburgh, PA and China (more geography). We did get our first postcard in the mail this past week – from Miami. The card was a Disney Villains card, and it came from a teacher. Since beginning Postcrossing, I find that we are in need of a good-sized world map that we can tack up on the wall. That’s definitely in my shopping plans for next week.

All in all, I’d say that today was a fantabulous start to our week! Tomorrow’s plans include a movie with no educational value whatsoever, the library and possibly a cameo on a locally filmed television show. Stay tuned!

Warmly,

~h


Friday, Rainy Friday…

So our plans with friends to spend the afternoon in the pool got rained out… again. It stormed so hard that our lights went out for a while, so we decided to get dressed and go to the book store for a bit. Right about the time we were ready to leave, it started really pouring, and the lights came back on so we stayed home.

Changing plans that many time in such a short amount of time did not make for happy campers; in fact, PeaGreen has been downright grouchy for most of the day. As much as I sympathize, I do not control the weather and sometimes we simply must be flexible – whether we like it or not.

I did take advantage of a brief pause in the rain to weed the garden a bit – well, I say “garden” – it’s TINY, but growing! We have actual tomatoes now,  which is awesome, especially if you remember what we started with in March.

Fortunately for the kids, it’s Super Science Concoctions to the rescue! If you haven’t checked this book out, you totally should. It’s SUPER cheap on Amazon – only one penny (plus shipping). Definitely adding this to our ever-growing library.

We spent half an hour making marshmalloids – tasty foam colloids, also known as marshmallows* – from gelatin, vanilla and sugar.

Just add 2 packets of unflavored gelatin to 1c. of boiling water, dissolve; then add 1c. sugar and 2tsp. vanilla and mix for about 20 minutes. Then cover and we refrigerated since it’s summertime and rather warm. After a half hour or so, they’re ready! We made some hot chocolate and topped them with homemade marshmallows.

*Do keep in mind that this is a kiddie experiment and not gourmet marshmallows. If you’re looking for that, try this recipe!

Now that it has stopped raining, I think we are going to go on out to the pool!

Warmly,

~h


Feliz Cinco de Mayo!!

I was looking for some quick and easily explained ways to integrate Cinco de Mayon into our curriculum on Tuesday. I figured that since we were having a playgroup cdm celebration, they might as well learn what it is we’re celebrating. I found this video on YouTube: Learn about Cinco de Mayo. It’s a great ‘skim’ of the history behind Cinco de Mayo for littles. Bigger kids might enjoy a more in-depth perusal, or learn more about the battles that preceded it, but for my kids, this was good. We also listened to some mariachi music and watched some folk dancing – very entertaining!

I found this craft:

Paper Bag Maracas

Of course, once the craft was done, they quickly lost interest in that to seek out a lizard that was in the garden. Go figure!

We made a big CdM celbration for playgroup, and I made a chicken casseole that my MIL makes – so yummy!! (recipe below)

Chicken Casserole Recipe:

  • mushrooms (I use canned, a big can, because I like them – use fresh if you like, or a smaller can to your taste)
  • white onion (I use 2 whole medium-sized onions chopped fine enough to disappear when cooked – I like the flavor of onions but not to bite into them. If you do or don’t like them, adjust this to your taste. In an emergency, you can use onion powder.)
  • 2 TBSP vegetable or xvirg olive oil (or your oil of choice)
  • 4 c cooked chicken (2 chicken breasts, boned – more or less depending on your taste), shredded works best but you can cube (small cubes!) if you prefer.
  • 1 10oz. can EACH of cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup. (You can use 2 cans of crm. of mush. if you don’t have the crm. of chick., but I’d advise against using 2 cans of crm. of chick.)
  • 1 4oz. can of green chilies (or fresh, finely chopped. Please remember to pay attention to whether your chilies are mild, medium or hot – this will get SPICY if you’re not careful!)
  • 1/4 c. of chicken broth
  • 1 clove fresh garlic (minced)
  • up to 8 corn tortillas, torn into 2′ pieces
  • 1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded for top of casserole (little more or less, depending on your taste – you can also mix some cheese into the liquid mix, or just put some on top – your choice!)
  • 1 c. monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c. jalapeño peppers, diced (again, your taste will dictate how much to put)
  • salt, pepper, other spices to taste

Directions:

Saute onions and garlic in oil until tender. If you’re using fresh pappers and chilies, add them now as well. Canned, add mushrooms, chilies, jalapenos when the veggies are done just to heat them up a bit. Add soups and broth to veggies when tender, mix well to heat. Add chicken and spices to warm them – mix thoroughly. Remove from heat. Line bottom of casserole dish with tortillas, add a layer of cheese and a layer of mix. Add another layer of tortillas, cheese and mix. Add another layer if there’s enough mix left and enough room in your pan – top with cheese. Put in the oven at 350 until cheese is golden and bubbly (20 – 45 minutes?)

I added bell peppers to it the last time I made it and it was a good addition ;)

SO YUMMY…

Hope your Cinco de Mayo was just as festive!

Warmly, ~h


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